Reliant Stadium in Houston hosts an AFC matchup this Sunday between the visiting Cleveland Browns and the Houston Texans. Kickoff is slated for 1:00 PM, and the opening football betting lines favor Houston by -10 points.
The 3-4 Browns fell to San Francisco on the road this past Sunday, 20-10, Cleveland's third loss in their last four games. Poor ball-handling and lackluster offensive play doomed the Browns, although the 49ers (6-1) also had something to do with it, winning their fifth straight. Browns QB Colt McCoy fumbled four times, and although only one was lost, it led directly to a 49er touchdown less than 3 minutes into the game. McCoy was also sacked 4 times, making 9 sacks in the last two weeks. Otherwise, McCoy went 22 of 34 for 241 yards, including a 45-yard TD pass to Joshua Cribbs midway through the 4th-quarter, Cleveland's first touchdown in seven quarters. The Browns running game was also ineffective, with starter Peyton Hillis sitting out his second straight game with a hamstring injury, and then backup Montario Hardesty being sidelined with a strained calf muscle before halftime. Reserve RB Chris Ogbonnaya paced the Browns with 37 yards on 11 carries.
Defensively, 49er RB Frank Gore "gored" Cleveland's defense for 134 yards on 31 carries and a touchdown. Gore has run for more than 125 yards in 4 consecutive games as well as scoring a TD in each contest. Costly, ill-timed penalties also plagued the Browns, most notably a facemask penalty on LB D'Qwell Jackson on a critical 4th-quarter third-down attempt that allowed San Francisco to maintain possession and end Cleveland's last hope. Despite his gaffe, Jackson remains a standout, while Joe Haden in the secondary, is not far from being a defender that opposing quarterbacks will try to avoid.
Despite having their high-powered offense relatively contained by a swarming Jacksonville Jaguar defense, the Houston Texans persevered this past Sunday for a 24-14 victory, keeping them in the top spot in the topsy-turvy AFC South by 1/2 game over Tennessee. RB Arian Foster continued his return from an early-season injury, piling up 112 yards on 33 carries against one of the NFL's better run-stuffing defenses. QB Matt Schaub overcame a so-so 16 for 30, 225-yard performance as well as missing his Allpro WR Andre Johnson for the fourth straight game due to a hamstring injury. WR Kevin Walter once again did his best "poor man's Wes Welker" impression, hauling in 5 of Schaub's tosses for 70 yards, while TE Owen Daniels contributed 4 catches for 60 yards in helping the Texans improve to 5-3.
Going against the NFL's least-effective offense, Houston's defense had little trouble with the Jaguars and their rookie QB Blaine Gabbert, limiting him to 10 for 30 on pass attempts for just 97 yards. They also picked off 2 of Gabbert's passes, as well as holding the Jags only offensive weapon, mini-mite RB Maurice Jones-Drew, to 63 yards on 18 carries. A 21-yard completion to TE Mercedes Lewis was the longest play allowed by the Texans, who were led by LB Brian Cushing's 7 tackles. The loss of Allpro DE Mario Williams hasn't affected Houston's pass rush adversely, at least not yet, and the secondary, led by Glover Quin, Danieal Manning and Jason Allen, is athletic, smart and hard-hitting.
With Peyton Hillis still questionable, and McCoy routinely running for his life, Cleveland still may be a little more effective offensively than Jacksonville, but certainly not by a lot. Cleveland's 27 points in a Week 2 victory over Indianapolis is the biggest offensive output for the Browns on the season. Andre Johnson may return this week, but even if he doesn't, the Texans have more than enough weapons to move the chains consistently, especially as long as Arian Foster stays healthy. Schaub is especially effective at the short-to-intermediate passing game, and in Walter and Daniels, has the personnel to pick apart defenses effectively while chewing up the clock.
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